Buyer personas: what they are and how to use them in marketing
The buyer persona (or buyer personas in the plural) is a concept that’s increasingly used in marketing. It’s a way of representing the clientele – real or potential – of a business, product or service.
But what exactly is a buyer persona? In what contexts is this invaluable tool used? How do you create a buyer persona? What applications does it have outside of marketing?
Today, we’ll try to answer all of these questions and give you some concrete examples of buyer personas. Enjoy!
What are buyer personas?
Buyer personas are semi-fictitious representations of a target audience: they summarise the characteristics of a population segment in a single description.
A buyer persona therefore had a name, precise age or age range, an occupation, passions, needs, and habitual motivations and behaviours. Sometimes they also have clear opinions that can be summed up in a phrase or sentence. However, buyer personas do not describe a real person, but an archetype created from real data and market research.
Buyer personas are very realistic representations that can be highly detailed – some even have profile pictures. They are put together from quantitative and qualitative data. An example of quantitative data would be the average age of a shop’s customers, their average salary or where they live. Qualitative data refers to things such as desires, habits and motivations.
Let’s look at a simplified example of a buyer persona for an online bike shop.
A customer archetype for the last product sold by the shop (a new urban bike) is the buyer persona of Lucia. Lucia is a young, 30-year-old freelancer who usually gets about by car. However, she wants to do more commuting by bike. Lucia considers herself to environmentally aware and is tech savvy. She regularly shops online and offline.
In short, buyer personas:
- Are fictitious representations of archetypes
- Are put together using real data and market research
- Combine quantitative and qualitative data
- Can vary in their level of detail, but usually include a brief description of the archetype.
The benefits of defining buyer personas for businesses
As we’ve seen, buyer personas are useful tools for representing a given segment of the population – both quantitatively and qualitatively – by summarising it as a single fictitious archetype. The same company can have a clientele consisting of various buyer personas: while individual products usually have three or four buyer personas, larger companies with a varied product offering might need to define 20 or so customer archetypes.
One of the advantages of using buyer personas is that they focus attention on something tangible, rather than numbers and abstract data. Buyer personas – although not real people – have a name, face and identity that make it easier to understand which content, methods and tools to use to connect with a customer base.
So it’s clear that defining buyer personas is useful for various corporate functions. The marketing department will use buyer personas to devise advertising campaigns and communication strategies that are effective for their target market. The product design team will use the information from buyer personas to optimise products based on customer needs. The customer care department will tailor their processes and communications channels to suit the customer archetype they need to support.
So, defining buyer personas that are then shared within a firm can increase sales and improve parameters like user satisfaction and user experience.
Buyer personas are representations that can also be useful outside the world of business. They can, for example, describe the users of a public service like a railway line, the beneficiaries of government incentives or the audience for municipal communications.
In a nutshell, buyer personas are useful because:
- They focus on something tangible
- They provide a description of an archetype who will interact with various corporate functions: from product design to marketing and customer care
- They can also be used outside of corporate marketing, such as in public services
How to use buyer personas: examples
Now we know the benefits of using buyer personas, whether in business or other contexts, let’s look at a few practical examples.
- Thanks to buyer personas, we can predict customer behaviour towards new developments, such as a new product or a sales method. For example: imagine that a company is trying to decide whether to open an online store alongside its bricks-and-mortar shop. How will this decision be received by existing customers? A buyer persona who has greater trust in online stores will be happier with this choice.
- Buyer personas help you better understand where to reach potential customers. If the buyer personas of a firm spend a lot of time on a given social network, it might be a good idea to invest in advertising in that virtual space. If, however, they are more likely to shop on a particular e-commerce platform, you could consider opening an online store on that platform.
- Buyer persona enable you to optimise products and services. Once customers have bought your product or service, how will they use it? An in-depth understanding of your typical customer – including their habits and motivations – helps you offer products that are ever more personalised and tailored to your clientele. If your chain of restaurants has a buyer persona who is particularly environmentally conscious, for example, you may decide to offer then them tap water rather than bottle water.
- Buyer personas are great for personalising your marketing content. When putting together content for marketing material, it’s vital to keep your target audience in mind. Thanks to buyer personas, you can create personalised content for precise types of customer. A very young buyer persona, for example, calls for a language and tone that takes this into account.
How are buyer personas created?
The creation of buyer personas involves a number of different stages: collecting quantitative data, collecting qualitative data, analysing this data and defining different buyer personas. Online and offline, you can find many tools to help you through each of these phases, such as data analysis software and templates. You can also hire marketing professionals to define your company’s buyer personas.
Below we have some tips on each phase of the buyer personas creation process.
How to collect quantitative data
- Use quantitative data gathered by platforms like Google Analytics – a tool for analysing the online behaviour of your customers – or CRM software.
- Carry out market research into your potential customers
How to collect qualitative data:
- Interact with your customers both online – through webforms, for example – and offline with interviews and focus groups. Try to understand why your customers have certain behaviours or habits: motivations are a fundamental part of buyer personas.
- In your business, talk to those who are customer facing, from customer care to the sales team. Try to understand what your customers are thinking and extrapolate this into words and phrases they use.
- Gather information from online reviews left by your customers.
Here’s a few tips for defining buyer personas:
- Give them a name. It might seem trivial, but this helps to better identify the customer archetype and share it with the rest of the company.
- Determine what they do for a living and their family situation. Try to answer questions like: do they work or are they a student? What type of work do they do? How much do they earn a month? Are they married? Do they have children? If so, how many?
- Geolocate buyer personas. Understanding where buyer personas come from is important both for selling offline and online. Do they come from a big city or a small town? Are they likely to travel? What type of shops does their city offer? Do they satisfy them?
- Define the buyer personas’ online behavior. Are they used to shopping online? Do they do research online? Do they read blogs? On which social networks do they have an active profile?
- Lastly, describe the motivations and desires of buyer personas. At this point in their life, what are the buyer persona’s goals? What challenges do they face? What tools might help them realise their dreams or make their life easier?
Once you’ve created a buyer persona, interact with them as if they were a real person: put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what they might think about your product and what message would reach them most. Unleash your creativity!
Are you ready to define the buyer personas for your business? Do you already have an idea of who they could be? Were there any surprises?